Old-School Charm and Delicious Flavours

The Westfort Coney Island

As if sliced out of an American fairground and transported into the great Northwest,
Westfort Coney Island brings us homey and familiar North American comfort food with a hint of childhood experiences, like when the juice of a burger ran down your arm and dripped from your elbow.

Opened in 1950, Coney Island’s longevity is due in part to its history and its famous Coney sauce with its secret recipe. The regulars also keep coming back for sentimental remembrances and to support and hang out with Coney’s most adorable, hardworking owner, Victoria Sates, known to her regulars as Effie.

Effie came to Canada in her twenties from Greece and married the man who started the little restaurant. He ran it with his two brothers. They passed away years ago and Effie remains the owner, boss, and cook. She does it all, with the help of five staff running the plates on various shifts during the day, but Effie is nearly always at hand. She tells of a time in 1968 when a hamburger or two hot dogs sold at Coney for 25 cents. Popular today, and the only ongoing special on the menu is the Half and Half—half beans and half spaghetti. It’s hugely popular. The fries are homemade and awesome. The special sauce is sold in a jar and is purchased by both tourists and locals for their own kitchens, and even sent in care packages to Toronto for kids who’ve moved away to study, and who miss the sauce.

When I ask Effie if she ever advertises to bump up business, assuming she might need it, Effie laughs and says with her Greek accent, “No. I don’t advertise.” Effie has morning breakfast regulars who pack the place. And when she sees their faces, she knows their favourite dishes. “Oh, but they change their minds sometimes,” she laughs, waving her hand. “They want this and that.” So for decades Effie has lovingly provided for her regulars and lived off of word-of-mouth.

Effie tells a story that hits home regarding the history and the resilience of her little place. Not long ago, a couple came into Coney, flying in from Southern Ontario to celebrate an anniversary. Westfort Coney Island was the place they first met fifty years earlier. Effie gave them a couple free hot dogs to celebrate their return. 

About Duncan Weller

A writer and visual artist, Duncan Weller is a Governor General's Award winner who lives in Thunder Bay. You can visit his website at www.duncanweller.com. His latest two books are a novel, Flight of the Silk, and an expanded edition of the award-winning children's picture book, The Boy from the Sun.

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